How to Eat Meat and Still Save the Planet

November 16, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015


Beef cattle are sold at an auction in Ayr on October 27, 2009 in Ayr, Scotland. ( Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Beef cattle are sold at an auction in Ayr on October 27, 2009 in Ayr, Scotland. ( Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
LONDON—Meat and dairy farming can be compatible with sustainable "planet-friendly" farming, says a new report by environmental groups.

But intensive factory farming which produces the anomaly of culling forests in South America to grow soy for animal feed in the UK, would not be needed.

The report, Eating The Planet? How we can feed the world without trashing it by Friends of the Earth (FOE) and Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), was published ahead of the United Nations World Summit on food security on November 16.

It looks into animal feed supply, forests, diets, organic agriculture, humane farming and bioenergy.

The report states, “With a billion people in the world malnourished, and the same number of people obese – overweight to a level which endangers their health – adjusting diets globally will benefit rich countries as well as developing ones.”

Duncan Pullar of the English Beef and Lamb Executive agreed with the findings of the report.

“We understand and accept that there is a potential food crisis looming over the next decade,” he said.

“Much of what can be changed in farming depends on soil and climate,” Mr Pullar explained. “From the UK perspective there is 60 per cent of land which is only suitable for growing grass for ruminant animals, so it cannot be turned directly into food for humans.

Up a Welsh Mountainside, Sheep Are the Best Harvest

“In most of the UK, and in large chunks of the world, you can only grow grass and having animals eating that grass is the only way for agriculture. For instance, you can't grow potatoes up the side of a Welsh mountain,” he said. “Sheep are the best harvest.”

Eating the Planet? explains how negative global effects can be reduced by individual businesses, governments and people.

FOE and CIWF are taking their campaign forward on two fronts, a CIWF spokesperson said.

First is to approach policy-makers to stop factory farming and change the "bigger-is-best" approach to agriculture.

Second is to help people change their diet. Too much pressure has been heaped on becoming vegetarian, the spokesperson said. “Of course it helps but there is no need to go that far. Having a more balanced diet with no factory farming and deforestation” is the way forward, she said

Fergus McReynolds, Environment Manager of Dairy UK, said, "Dairy UK works very constructively with a number of environmental organisations, and will study this report closely.

“We are actively investing in carbon footprinting standards. Over the last 20 years, farms have cut methane emissions by more than 15 per cent. By 2020, half of all the plastic used in milk bottles will be recycled,” he said.